"Mikuru and Yuki will hide behind that steep bank by the corner of the fence. Koizumi, lay down somewhere in the middle there, and don't fire until I give the signal, even if they step on you."

"Aye aye," he said, giving a mock salute and smiling.

I kind of hope they do step on him now.

"Kyon, follow me." We went over behind a couple of big trees. It was the same formation Haruhi had used last round, except now the pairings had been shuffled a bit.

"Listen, we're not going to lose this battle, you hear?" she said once the whistle had blown. I was about to tell her it was just a game, but I didn't bother. It would only spark an argument, and I had been shot enough for one day.

Once again the opposing team came slithering through the woods like guerilla soldiers, and when they finally did pop up and start shooting at us, they were a lot closer than I would have liked.

"Now, Koizumi!" Haruhi yelled, and out of a slight depression in the ground rose our esper, firing off shots that took out one and hit two more of their players. They managed to eliminate him pretty quickly, but the distraction allowed me and Haruhi to finish off the two players he had only tagged once.

So that left it two on two, considering Nagato and Asahina-san were on the other side of the field and the only shots being fired from their direction were the misguided attempts by Asahina-san, which were more likely to hit a bird than one of the opposing players.

The two enemy players had taken up positions on both sides of the little clump of trees we were hiding behind, and without some kind of backup, it would only be a matter of time before they moved up and finished us off.

"What are we going to do, Haruhi?" I asked, trying to make my extremities as elusive to paintballs as possible.

"I have a plan," she said, and even though I couldn't see her face for the mask she was wearing, I could tell just by looking at her eyes that she was really excited.

"Okay, let's hear it."

"It's called 'Operation Kyon-Shield.'"

I had just enough time to dazedly whisper, "Kyon-Shield. . .?" before she grabbed me by the collar and pushed me out into the open. As she guided me through the forest by the back of the neck, she fired paintballs at the enemy team over my shoulder.

Just look at how far my life has degraded. I'm now the human meat shield for Haruhi Suzumiya.

I got shot, a lot. Not as many times as Haruhi shot me, but still a lot. Eventually, someone shot me in the protective goggles, and I couldn't even see where I was going anymore. And of course, the next natural course of action was for me to trip, and I fell face first onto the soft forest floor.

"You're out," I heard the ref cry, and I figured with me on the ground, Haruhi was hit and the game was over. So I was a little surprised to hear him add, "Blue team wins the match."

I wiped the paint off and glanced over at the opposing players. She had got them both.

I rolled over on my back, and there she was standing over me.

"We did it!" she yelled. She had taken her mask off and was looking down at me with a big smile. Then she finally fired off those victory shots I'm sure she'd been struggling to hold in this whole match.

"Fantastic. My life's goal is now complete," I said, letting the sarcasm drip from my lips like drool.

For Haruhi, the victory meant everything, but the only solace I got from the trip was that I wouldn't have to play ever again.

I collected what was left of my paintballs and tried to wipe off the bucket of red paint that had been thrown at me during that final charge.

I noticed that Nagato was staring at me.

"Well, what do you think?" I asked.

"This game is not an accurate simulation of battlefield circumstances."

"Why's that?" She pauses.

"Because you would be dead."

That's not a very comforting thought, Nagato. Besides, that's why it's a simulation.

It was then that Haruhi returned from her talk with the other team. Did I mention that I made her go apologize for the cheap shot she took and the rock she threw?

"Did you do it?" I asked when she got back.

"Yeah, I apologized. They're actually pretty nice guys."

We already knew that.

"They challenged us to a rematch," she said, hoisting her gun into the air.

Don't tell me you're thinking about playing this again. . . .

"I told them it would have to be Capture the Flag, best out of five!"

Someone write home to my family for me because I doubt I'll survive this tour of duty.